(Vatican Radio) As the official death toll from the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal five days ago reaches more than 5000, Caritas Internationalis has rallied a record solidarity response for the victims.
The disaster on Saturday morning also injured more than 10,000 people and rendered thousands more homeless.
The U.N. says the quake has affected 8.1 million people - more than a fourth of Nepal’s population - and that 1.4 million are in need of food assistance.
Planes carrying basic necessities have been steadily arriving at Kathmandu's small airport, but the aid distribution process remains difficult, and as Caritas Internationalis Secretary General, Michel Roy told Linda Bordoni, the sheer magnitude of the earthquake brings with it major consequences…
Listen to the interview:
Michel Roy says as soon as they heard the magnitude of the quake was 7.9 his staff immediately realized that they were about to face a major crisis.
He says the first pictures and videos taken in Kathmandu confirmed this and notes that the death toll is continuing to rise and unfortunately will continue to do so in the coming days “because we have no idea yet of what has happened in a number of villages in the mountains where the roads have been cut and there are no telephones working”.
This – he says - makes it immensely difficult to be in touch with all the place that have been hit.
Roy points out that the earthquake has run across an horizontal line going from West to East, affecting Bangladesh, India and Tibet as well.
“A major earthquake with major consequences” he says.
Roy says the 32 million population of Nepal is a poor one; the environment is not conducive to agriculture because it is so mountainous, and many Nepalese migrate to India to work.
He says that human trafficking is an issue in the country due to the conditions of poverty in which so many live.
Roy says that at the moment many are faced with the simple issue of survival “it’s cold, it’s raining, the monsoons are arriving, and the worst affected communities urgently need shelter, food and drinking water.
He says that roads, infrastructure and communication lines in the mountainous valleys of Nepal posed significant challenges in access and coordination long before the earthquake struck.
He says that Katmandu has one small airport which can only receive a limited number of planes so most aid is coming in by road from India.
Caritas Nepal meanwhile has received overwhelming support from the international Caritas network, with Caritas organisations around the world supporting the response with personnel and resources.
Roy says that there are some strong members of the Caritas family in the region, such as Caritas Bangladesh, Caritas Pakistan and Caritas India who are well trained and used to dealing with natural disasters like floods and typhoons.
“They have competent teams that they can make available to Caritas Nepal” he says.
Michel Roy says Caritas has been flooded with donations and solidarity from across the globe.
He says it was amazing: ”It came from neighboring countries first – including collections
of money – but also from much further, from Latin America (…) we’ve received pledges
and funds from the Balkans – from Croatia that usually does not develop a lot of international
solidarity action, we’ve received money from Taiwan…” he says.
Donations – he says – are continuing to flow in to all Caritas agencies to support the earthquake emergency response “reaching over 3 million euros, which is rare in so few days”.
Roy says the money Caritas is raising will be used mainly for reconstruction and long term projects.
“Depending on the amount of money collected it will probably be a five-year programme”.
This support will be vital with an estimated 8 million people affected by the earthquake across 39 Nepalese districts.
For more on the Caritas response to the Nepal earthquake and for information on contributing a donation click here.
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